Friday, June 24, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

"There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.  He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” (Daniel 5:11-12, NIV)

Serving families who have a child with special needs can be an interesting proposition.  To the well-intentioned, having a party with all sorts of giveaways for a child can be a speedy way to soothe the conscience and feel like you can check your act of kindness off the list for the day.  But is that what this population really needs?

In the story of Daniel, he was highly regarded by his captors because of his mind.  Not only was he wise, but he was also connected to God and known for outside-the-box mental acuity.  Because of how he thought, people saw his great potential and ability to bring about the best outcome in a situation.

As I reflect on these qualities in Daniel, I think much of the same is required in serving families living with a disability.  Just as practical things like food and drink are addressed in the Bible, so shouldn't we be thinking about meeting such needs in our care of one another?  For our part, SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES has tried to think of these basic essentials by being innovative in providing parents with gift cards for gas, groceries and a dinner out.  I knew there was value to our creative thinking when a mother expressed at one of our meetings how she went without shampoo because in her exhaustion, she just couldn't bring herself to load her daughter with CP into the car one more time that week.  Our pampering gift basket provided that little something to let her know that Jesus cares about every detail of her life.

Also of note in the Bible is Daniel passionate need to be in regular connection with his God.  Despite the threat of death, he continued to worship and pray each day.  Why should we not seek to find inventive ways to remove the obstacles to prayer and worship to all in the special needs community?  Places like Friendship Ministries provide curriculum to the cognitively impaired.  Key Ministry seeks to include those with invisibilities like ADHD or autism.  Rest Ministries places their emphasis on support for those living with chronic illness.  Each one of these organizations is unique in their approach to making available something that the typical community takes so much for granted. And these are the very things families with special needs finds meaningful.

Our lives can be messy.  The doctor's appointments, financial strains, school battles and stressful living can be things that make people keep us at arm's length.  What we need from the church, and what Jesus commands, is small acts of kindness and long-term perseverance that edifies us in the daily journey.

To reach people they've never reached before, Christians will need to do things they've never done before.  And the only way to get to these things is to meet those of us weighted by the daily living with well thought out, imaginative acts of loving kindness. 

What sort of original acts of kindness would you like the Christian community to show you?  We'd love to hear!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty — and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works — and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.  (Psalm 145:3-7, NIV)

Our eighth grader graduated last Friday.  It took some convincing on our parts, but our daughter finally bought into the fact that this marking of the transition from middle school to high school is a big occasion. So the butterflies arrived in her stomach that morning before she departed.  My husband and I arrived toting a lovely bouquet, early enough to select the optimal seat.  Their orchestra played complex classical pieces as she, along with her 188 classmates nervously and joyfully shuffled into a packed gym all dressed in their best attire.   As the ceremony commenced, their choirs sang songs reflecting this season of their lives.  The principals and school superintendent gave glowing addresses.  And two students delivered lively and inspiring speeches mature beyond their age.  Of course, the diplomas were handed out along with certificates of achievement, and the students cheered as they were pronounced as graduates to conclude.  While cake and punch was served immediately afterwards, our celebration as a family came when we enjoyed dinner together at a chain restaurant that evening.  No doubt, it was a memorable occasion.

Reflecting back, however, I realize that we have more than this momentous occasion to celebrate from this past school year.  Our son made the transition into middle school from grade school this year.  It was exciting and fearful for him all at the same time.  The teacher he had was beyond our wildest imagination when it came to the tenderness he needed.  While he battled so much anxiety and missed many school days, he progressed wonderfully in the last quarter.  It seemed he had made great progress in living with his PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and he became more cooperative with his infusions.  He barely had any nosebleeds this past year, no joint bleeds, and no major injuries.  His grades were advanced for his age level despite any bumps in the road he faced.  Even one of these things on its own would be a big deal, but together they are truly amazing!

Then there’s your youngest.  We can feel proud that we attempted auditory integration therapy for her late last summer.  While it made things worse for her, at least we eliminated one course of treatment in her regime of drug-free therapies for treating her ADHD.  Although the teacher we had for her didn’t seem to be the best fit, the rest of the school team came around us remarkably and put her through a huge battery of tests to help us with diagnoses.  Thankfully, we were able to eliminate language processing difficulties.  In fact, she was off the charts in that area!  And we finally were able to have her diagnosed with SPD (sensory processing disorder) as well as social deficits.  While I shed some tears over it, she received an IEP in January that served her well.  The occupational therapist at the school was wonderful in helping me with getting our little treasure to work through getting her hair brushed, which was no small task with this sensory child.  The special ed teacher was amazing, using a Wii to help her with proprioceptive challenges.  And the principal never failed to let me know how much she loves my daughter.  All of this helped us move from feeling absolutely defeated to feeling like we were gaining ground in assuring her a bright future.

The point in me sharing these stories with you is that God wants us to take time to celebrate.  He created Sabbath so that we could even slow down enough from our daily laboring to realize that we have a reason to celebrate!  And it doesn’t even have to be a big occasion like a graduation either.  Rejoicing over life’s small victories keeps us going for life’s next challenges.  Holding a festive party fills us up and reminds us of why we work so hard, so that when we are required to be poured out, we can carry on knowing that there will be a sense of accomplishment in the end.  In fact, many times the only reason for undergoing is knowing that there will be the party of overcoming in the end!

When we don’t intentionally make that time to celebrate, we deprive ourselves of much of what God intended for us.  We survive rather than thrive.  Missing half of the equation in a situation that God saw fit to allow in our lives, we can become bitter and hardened.  There is a huge need for us to open our eyes to all of the goodness around us and respond in turn with gratitude and celebration!

Look back on this past school year now that summer vacation has or soon will arrive.  Even if there were heartaches, what were the good things that happened this past year?  Maybe it was just one good doctor’s appointment or one nice teacher.  Perhaps it was just being glad that the school year is behind you.  It could even be as simple as learning one new life skill, but that reason to celebrate is there.  God loves you and holds out reasons to rejoice even in the toughest of times.  Open your eyes and your heart to them!  Enjoy some cake & ice cream!  What are YOU celebrating from this past school year?  We’d love to hear about it and celebrate with you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Surrendering the Need to Know Why

Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you.  I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance. ~ Psalm 143:8, CEV

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. ~ Psalm 143:8, NLT

This weekend my husband and I will celebrate your nineteenth wedding anniversary.  And while all of those years haven't been a bed of roses, I would say that we've grown to know each other better and better through both adversity and joy.  We've come to understand one another's strengths and challenges.  When my husband does certain things in his areas of expertise, such as the lawn, the car or the mechanicals on the house, I don't need to ask him "Why?" because I realize that he knows what he is doing, while I, in turn, am utterly clueless.

Our relationship with the Sovereign Lord is much the same.  To our great benefit, our God is the God of relationship.  He wants to spend time with us daily, sharing His heart with us and having us share our hearts with Him.  He wants us to get to know Him better each day.  While we can never completely get our minds around an omnipotent, omniscient, all-powerful God, He wants us to grow in understanding of His character, who He is and how He works.  He is anxious to pour out His lavish love upon us, not harm us.  He sets boundaries in our lives for our safety, for our good and for His glory.  How precious that relationship becomes as we draw close to Him!

With that level of intimacy and understanding, why would it be necessary that I continue to question what He's doing?  While my husband may do some things that seem unloving, I've grown to know him well enough over the past nineteen plus years that I realize there's more than meets the eye.  He may be clumsy (in his humanity) or forgetful, but he still loves me.  How much more then does a perfect God love us the same, unencumbered by all of the human shortcomings?

Parents of children with special needs can find themselves stuck in a question of "Why?".  Why me?  Why my child?  Why aren't things getting better?  Why won't the school cooperate?  Why won't the doctors take me seriously?  Why does everything have to be such a battle?  Why would a loving God allow this?

To be brutally frank, I have found these questions to be pretty useless because for the most part, we will never know the answers to the majority of them.  But that does not leave me feeling bitter or frustrated.  I have quickly grown to a place where I can surrender my need to know why.

You see, I have grown to intimately know the One who has my very best at heart.  When I keep my eyes fixed on Him, I can trust that He has things handled without needing to know the whys.  If He allows something in my life, I know that it touches Him before it ever touches me.  I know He alone has the ability to create good things out of messy circumstances.  He alone creates beauty from ashes.

Now, lest I sound like a complete Pollyanna, let me assure you that this does not mean that I don't assert myself when I run into road blocks with school staff, medical staff or even family members.  But it does mean that I'm much calmer and courteous when I trust fully that He'll work everything out in the end.  Do I get irritated and frustrated?  Yes!  But I don't become obsessed and undone by a circumstance.  I realize that there is much that goes on behind the scenes in any given situation, and that is where the God of both seen and unseen has to work on my behalf.  Because I know what a gem He is, that I am His friend, and that He loves me passionately, I don't have to worry that He'll get the job done.  I just run to Him with my troubles and rely on Him to do what He does best.

My friend, my prayer for you today is that you grow in intimacy with the Lover of your soul, so that you can surrender your need to know why in life's upsetting situations.  He had things all figured out before you even appeared on the world stage.  Is He not capable then of handling your day to day troubles?  He loves you more than any human ever could, even giving His very life for you!  Does that not deserve your devotion and attention?  Know this, the One who holds the planets in place is the same One who rose from the dead to make a way for you to be with Him in bliss forever.  Rest assured then that He can be trusted with all of the hurts and confusions that confront you every day of your life.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Storms On The Horizon

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. 
~ Proverbs 22:3, NLT ~

Who of us has not witnessed the horrific tragedy caused by tornadoes recently sweeping through communities like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Joplin, Missouri and most recently Springfield, Massachusetts?  Times like these remind us of the power of nature and how we can be suddenly caught off-guard by crisis.  But the wisdom of God's word reminds us that consequences await us when we fail to prepare for the unexpected.

As parents of children with special needs, we are called and equipped to be good stewards of these precious gifts the Lord has given us.  Extra measures must be taken in addition to the typical preparations people make for things like hurricanes and earthquakes.  While the challenges we face can be exhausting, there are resources to turn to for help in planning.  For example, The Center for Children with Special Health Care Needs out of Seattle Children's Hospital offers a brief overview on how to pack an emergency supply kit for parents.  It highlights forms like the quick, easy to complete Care Plan and In Case of Emergency Form for you to update and have ready at a moment's notice.  For something lengthier and more detailed, The American Red Cross has combined forces with FEMA to offer the 20 page guide, Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs.  This piece is really intended for adults with handicaps or challenges, but will definitely get anyone who is planning for a child with special needs thinking.

Since no one knows that special child like you do, how about working beyond the set formula that these venues offer?  Do you spend time in God's word with your child?  Packing small Bible story books and coloring pages will offer comfort to your child reminding them of the Father's presence and strength during fearful times.  Also proven to be great stress relievers for children are fidgets (Kid Companions Chewelry is one of our favorites.), cherished stuffed animals and soft dough.  Each child has their own item that soothes and comforts.  Be mindful of such preferences when packing an emergency kit.

Certain things can easily be forgotten when planning for sudden crisis.  For our family, having adequate amounts of infusable medication and ancillary supplies would be absolutely key.  But don't forget the therapy animal, iPad or other assistive aids when planning.  What equipment needs to go along with each of those things to make them functional?  Make your own checklist to assure these are not left out when you need to move quickly.

While the loss of property and life in recent months has been heart rendering, if not for society's improved ability to warn and to plan in advance, the consequences would be far worse.  Let this be a solemn reminder to us that our Maker intends for us to be wise in taking precautions for life's dangers.  If tragedy strikes, may we be found to be the prudent ones.

PRAY: Spirit of wisdom, help us to carefully think and ready ourselves ahead of crisis, because when tragedy strikes, it's too late. 

~ Barb Dittrich